Listening is a skill that can only enhance your personal and professional life. It’s a quality most great leaders possess.

In our busy lives we’re constantly subjected to online notifications and the need to multitask. We’re pulled in so many different directions, it’s hard to stay calm and pay attention to any one thing. This can affect your ability to listen when someone addresses you. That is problematic enough; how much more so when a close friend is opening up to you and you aren’t truly hearing them.

It’s important for you to realise that the key to stronger relationships, both personal and professional, lies in the simple yet often forgotten skill of active listening.

More than just words:

Unlike passive listening, where we simply absorb sounds without fully engaging, active listening is about making a conscious effort to understand the speaker’s verbal and non-verbal message. It’s about paying attention, asking clarifying questions, reflecting on and responding to what you’ve heard.

Why it matters: The benefits of active listening extend far beyond polite conversation.

  • At home: Imagine truly connecting with your partner or child, so they feel heard and understood. Active listening fosters feelings of empathy, strengthens bonds and creates a safe space for open communication.
  • At work: Active listening makes you a better team player. You’ll be able to understand a colleague’s perspective, collaborate more effectively and resolve conflicts more constructively. Leaders who actively listen gain trust, inspire engagement and create a positive work environment.

So, how do you unlock this superpower? Here are some tips:

  • Minimise distractions: Put away your phone, silence notifications and focus on the speaker.
  • Show engagement: Maintain eye contact, nod attentively and use encouraging body language.
  • Ask open-ended questions: Go beyond “yes” or “no” answers to delve deeper and understand the speaker’s thoughts and feelings.
  • Summarise what you heard: Repeat key points to the speaker to ensure you’ve grasped their message accurately and reflect on these points.
  • Resist interrupting: Allow the speaker to finish expressing their thought before you respond.
  • Emphasise empathy: Acknowledge their emotions and offer support without judgement.

Practice makes perfect: Remember, active listening is a skill like any other. Start small, practise with close friends and gradually incorporate the skill of listening into your daily interactions. You’ll be surprised at the positive impact it has on your relationships at home and at work.

If you’re not sure where you fall on the listening scale, take this quiz and then get started on your journey to becoming an active listener.